In English Voices From Spain

Foreign in my own country

Published originally in Spanish. Roger Senserrich. Politikon.

I think I have said this before, but I always felt as belonging, sentimentally at least, to four countries: Venezuela, England, United States and Catalonia.

I was born in Venezuela; I lived there until I was 6. I never went again. First, because I was too young, later because I didn’t have the time, and finally because the country went to hell. England had always been for me the most civilized country on earth; I have been an enthusiastic anglophile since I can remember, probably since the first time I saw a picture of a Spitfire. That was until the irrationality of Brexit transformed that quiet country in the home of the stupid parochialism that I despise so much. I have been for 13 years in the United States; my wife is from here and my daughter was born in New Haven. I love this little corner of the world which is Connecticut; I appreciated the lively, unconditional love for the country’s diversity. Until last November, when Trump brought the most rancid European nationalism to these lands.

I always had Barcelona. I’m a Catalan, Catalan is my mother tongue and I think in Catalan. I am stingy, deeply boring, irrepressibly bourgeois and enthusiastically moderate. I firmly believe that tomato bread is the epitome of Western civilization, and that the Camp Nou is the most sacred place in the world. Barcelona, the city of marvels, has always been that open, contradictory place, obsessed with aesthetics and the fresh ideas, no matter how absurd they were. A city of worlds, capital of a country that took pride in being open and cosmopolitan.

Until yesterday. The vote in the Catalan parliament was not certainly the source of the problem, nor change came last night, during a grotesque legislative session. But yesterday was the stamp, the signature, the final confirmation that the Catalonia that I always had loved, appreciated and admired, to which I always felt I belonged to, was being left out, excluded by the same politicians that claim to represent it.

Catalonia, it used to be said, was their business, something that they knew how to take to happiness. Forget the old good appreciation for order, prudence and moderation. Forget the contradictions, the fresh ideas, the calling to be the most European, universal, open place. Happiness is now something else, something that can only happen if we leave and do the things on our own, after expelling the enemies of the homeland, confined in our little parochial bubble of moral superiority. The concept of country is ours, the country is us. Anyone who disagrees is a botifler, a sellout and an idiot.

The referendum on secession, if it occurs, is a vote to turn me into a foreigner in my own country. It’s not only a matter of Spain, the European Union, the constitution, the dynastic union or the Catholic Monarchs. It’s about the idea of a group of politicians, backed by a lot of voters, having decided that the country which I belong to, the Barcelona that I had always loved, doesn’t exist and deserves to be ignored. The Barcelona that looks out into the world, who talks to everyone, full of people from everywhere, is now a pretext for a supposed secular oppression driven by obscure Spanish interests; a hideous conspiracy to repress the Catalan nation. A nation that now wants to advance alone, with nobody to talk to, completely heedless of those who would rather not leave. A place that seems to place more value in old resentments, flags and 300 years old defeats that in an open, happy and somewhat eccentric society.

It’s the resentment, over again. Populisms stirring up ghosts; votes against someone else, to piss off someone else, not for building something. Yesterday the Catalan parliament voted against those of us who believe that adding is better than subtracting, large better than small, open better than closed. And they did it while accusing us of being anti-democratic, intolerant and sellouts, as if to love our country and honestly think that we are committing a folly is not a respectable opinion, failing to understand that it’s not only about votes.

Today, I feel a foreigner in my own four countries. Of all them, Catalonia is the one that depresses me the most.    

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